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Dead Man Walking

Back when the Seattle Mariners first signed Chone Figgins - pretty much out of nowhere, as I recall, although there might have been a few rapidly intensifying rumors in the lead-up - I wouldn't say that people were necessarily ecstatic. Figgins wasn't exactly the big, forceful bat a lot of people had in mind. Chone Figgins could camp within a grade school diorama, and his slugging percentages have always reflected that.

But, at least around here, my sense was that people were content. Pleased, even. While Figgins wouldn't be expected to bring power, he'd be expected to bring pretty much everything else, and the overall package would make for a quality player. He could draw a walk, he could run, he could play a mean third base - at best, Figgins would be an underpaid and underrated star, and at worst, maybe he'd be around league-average, since he was the athletic sort, and the athletic sort tends to age well. At the time, it was hard to see how Figgins could turn into a disaster.

Fast-forward two years. We've learned something about the expression "at worst." At worst, we all die, or endure such agony that we wish we were dead. When it comes to a baseball player, the worst is that he's awful, completely awful, irredeemably awful. Chone Figgins is awful, and he looks irredeemably awful. He's not - that's just bias on my part, and there's a mathematical chance he bounces back - but the future doesn't look good. Not in the long-term, and not in the short-term.

Figgins has been so bad that we've had to reconsider how we expect players to age. Figgins has been so bad that we wonder how we didn't see this coming before. "He's a slap-hitter with zero power! How did this ever work?!" Figgins has been so bad that, yesterday, a report emerged that the Mariners are willing to chip in a lot of money to trade him away, and none of us batted an eye, because, of course. Of course the Mariners would be willing to chip in a lot of money to trade him away, because who would take him otherwise?

The Chone Figgins idea, however wise it might have been at the beginning, is a bust, and it's hard to see him sticking around as a Seattle Mariner.

And yet, today, as of the last time I checked, Chone Figgins remains a Seattle Mariner. He's still team property, and he's still owed seventeen million dollars over the next two years.

The situation is...this word is badly overused, and in need of some more well-known synonyms, but the situation is awkward. If the season were to start tomorrow, Chone Figgins would probably be on the Mariners. I don't know what he would be doing, but he would probably be there, as some kind of emergency stopgap. The Mariners would hope for him to show some glimmer of life, while giving him precious few opportunities to show some glimmer of life.

Or maybe he wouldn't be. Maybe the Mariners would cut him. I don't know. But the Mariners haven't cut him yet. Chone Figgins is still shown as a Seattle Mariner on his Wikipedia page, and Wikipedia knows things about people before the people do.

So Chone Figgins is still the property - in a baseball sense - of a team that has no use for him. Look around at some of the other bad contracts in baseball. Barry Zito has a bad contract, but the Giants have reason to believe he could be their fifth starter. Jayson Werth has a bad contract, but the Nationals have reason to believe he could be a productive hitter. Vernon Wells has a bad contract, but the Angels have reason to believe he could be a productive hitter. Alex Rios has a bad contract, but the White Sox have reason to believe he could be a productive player.

Do the Mariners have reason to believe that Chone Figgins could be a productive anything? A helpful anything? Figgins turns 34 in January. He's been a Mariner for just over 1,000 trips to the plate. Over those plate appearances, he's slugged .285. Remember that home run he hit on opening day? That was one of two home runs he's hit with Seattle.

Again, I guess there's a mathematical chance that Figgins could work as a utility player, but probably not anything more than that. Chone Figgins has two years left on his contract, and he's not a guy you can start, or a guy the Mariners seem particularly interested in keeping around.

He's a guy who just kind of exists there on the roster for the time being. It's weird for us to think about, and it has to be far weirder for Figgins himself to think about, since he can't have any idea what 2012 might have in store. He doesn't know where he's going to play, and he doesn't know what kind of job he might end up having. He just knows he's going to get paid a lot. I guess that helps, albeit not as much as the casual audience thinks.

I do not think Chone Figgins returns as a Seattle Mariner in 2012. I think he shows up with someone else, either because the Mariners traded him for nothing, traded him for a bad contract, or dropped him outright. If and when Figgins lands elsewhere, I expect that he'll talk about getting a fresh start and never quite being comfortable batting behind Ichiro. I think that's a bullshit excuse, and you think that's a bullshit excuse, but Figgins has to believe in that, he has to believe there's some reason for what's happened, because he can't believe he's as finished as he's looked. If he believed that, he'd quit playing.

So I don't think we'll have to watch Chone Figgins in a Mariners uniform next season. For the time being, though, he's still figuratively wearing one. I think this is weird for everybody.